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Virginia Studies 9 (VS9) Notes

VS9a Economic and Social Changes in Virginia

Reasons for Economic and Social Changes

Both the 20th and 21st centuries have brought transition, or change for Virginia. During this time Virginia moved from being a rural, agricultural society to a more urban, industrialized society. There were two reasons for these changes: farming began to change and cities began to grow.

Agricultural (Farming) Changes

At the beginning of the 20th century, life was not easy for Virginia’s farmers. Old-fashioned ways of farming were too slow and required too many workers. Virginia’s farmers also found themselves competing with large farms out west and in the south. Because of the expanding railroad system, these newer, larger farms were sending their goods to Virginia to sell. Crop prices declined, or fell and Virginia’s farmers had a hard time making a living. Many Virginians gave up their farming jobs and moved to the growing cities as a result of these problems. They had to learn how to adapt to this new lifestyle.

Growth of Virginia’s Cities

City populations began to grow as more and more people moved away from the rural farmlands looking for jobs and a better future for their families. Improvements in transportation also caused Virginia’s cities to grow. Improved roads and railroads brought lots of goods and raw materials to city factories and businesses, while streetcars moved people quickly from home to work. As the factories and businesses grew, more and more Virginians moved to cities in search of job opportunities. Coal mining in western Virginia also stimulated the growth of towns and cities in Virginia as people moved from the countryside to find jobs.

As a result of Virginia’s growth, people have moved to Virginia’s cities from many different states and nations. During the 20th century, Northern Virginia experienced a lot of growth due to the large number of government jobs located in that region. Starting in the late 20th century and early 21st century, Northern Virginia and the Coastal Plain (Tidewater) region have grown due to an increase in computer technology industries.

VS9b,d Contributions to Virginia & the World in the 20th & 21st Centuries

Many Virginians made contributions to our state and nation during the 20th and 21st centuries. These contributions were social, political, and economic.

Maggie L. Walker: In the early 20th century, women did not benefit from many of the rights and privileges enjoyed by men. They were not allowed to vote and those that worked held only the lowest paying jobs. One woman refused to accept this poor treatment. Her name was Maggie L. Walker. Maggie established St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia. She also became the first African American woman to establish and become a bank president in the United States.

Harry F. Byrd, Sr.: Harry F. Byrd, Sr. was a very powerful leader from the state of Virginia. He served as the 50th governor of Virginia and as a United States Senator. As governor, he modernized our state government and improved state roads. His motto was “Pay As You Go.” Harry F. Byrd, Sr. did not believe that Virginia should borrow money to improve its roads. Instead he proposed that the needed money come from taxes on gasoline.

Oliver W. Hill, Sr.: As a civil rights lawyer and civil rights leader, Oliver W. Hill, Sr. worked for equal rights of African Americans. He played a key role in the Brown v. (versus) Board of Education decision to desegregate public schools.

Arthur R. Ashe, Jr.: Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. was the first African American winner of a major men’s tennis singles championship. His famous ten year career began on the public recreation courts in Richmond, Virginia. During this time frame he won three Grand Slam singles titles and collected over 800 career victories. Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. was also known as an author and spokesperson for social change. His popularity gave him many opportunities to speak out about inequities in the world of tennis and society as a whole.

A. Linwood Holton, Jr.: As the 61st governor of Virginia, A. Linwood Holton, Jr. was born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. As an attorney and politician, he promoted racial equality. In fact, as governor, he appointed more African Americans and women to state government positions than any other governor. A. Linwood Holton, Jr. also created the Virginia Governor’s Schools Program.

L. Douglas Wilder: In 1989, voters in Virginia elected L. Douglas Wilder, the grandson of an enslaved African American, as their 66th governor. The Richmond teenager, who had once shined shoes and washed windows to help support his family, became the first African American to be elected a state governor in the United States.

Two famous men, Woodrow Wilson and George C. Marshall, were important national and international leaders. Their contributions benefited both the United States and the world.

Woodrow Wilson: Woodrow Wilson was a 20th century president (1913-1921) who was born in Virginia. He wrote a plan for world peace. His plan was called the League of Nations which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. Wilson was president during World War I.
George C. Marshall: General of the Army, George C. Marshall created an economic plan to ensure world peace. This plan was called the Marshall Plan for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. Marshall graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and was related to Chief Justice John Marshall who was a native Virginian.

VS9c The Civil Rights Movement in Virginia

After World War II, African Americans began to demand equal treatment and recognition of their rights as American citizens. This struggle was called the Civil Rights Movement. As a result of the Civil Rights Movement, laws were passed that made racial discrimination illegal. Racial discrimination is treating people differently because of their race.

Although slavery had been abolished almost 100 years before, African Americans did not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as white Americans. Segregation continued. Segregation is the separation of people usually by race or religion. They were forced to sit in the back of city buses, drink from different water fountains, use different restroom facilities, and attend different schools.

These injustices began to change in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public schools were unconstitutional. This court case was called Brown v. (versus) Board of Education. As a result, all public schools, including those in Virginia, were ordered to desegregate. To desegregate means to abolish or end racial segregation or separateness.

A number of Virginia’s leaders did not agree with these new laws that called for desegregation. Virginia’s government established a policy of Massive Resistance. They fought to “resist” the integration of public schools. Integration means full equality of all races in the use of public facilities.

Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. led a Massive Resistance Movement against desegregation of public schools that forced the governor of Virginia to close any school that followed the Supreme Court order. Between 1958 and 1959 some public schools were closed to avoid integration.

By 1959, however, the Virginia Supreme Court had outlawed school closings and the policy of Massive Resistance had failed. Slowly, Virginia’s public schools were desegregated.